The Mennonite Board of Guardians, an immigration aid committee of American Mennonites, was formed on 2 December 1873 at Summerfield, Illinois, to aid the Mennonites emigrating from Russia to the United States. It was created by the merger of two earlier committees, the aid committee appointed on 9 October 1873 by the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite (MC) Conference and composed of John F. Funk, Isaac Kilmer, and Bernhard Warkentin, and a similar committee appointed on 17 November 1873 by the Western District Conference (GCM), composed of Christian Krehhiel, Daniel Baer, and Bernhard Warkentin. The new Board of Guardians was composed of Christian Krehbiel president, David Goerz secretary, John F. Funk treasurer, Bernhard Warkentin agent, and Kilmer and Baer as members. It announced its purposes to be to negotiate with the railroads to secure the most favorable terms, to speed up the collection of gifts and loans from all the peace churches, and to solicit the cooperation of all the conferences. Funk seems to have been a moving spirit in the organization; he had already in the November number of his paper, the Herald of Truth, issued a stirring appeal for immediate action to help the immigrants on the part of all Mennonites, "whether old or new Mennonites, Reformed Mennonites, Evangelical Mennonites, Swiss Mennonites, Amish Mennonites, or by whatsoever other peculiar name they may be known." The Board contacted the prospective emigrants in Russia with direct offers of aid in the form of gifts and loans, and gave them counsel as to procedures in reaching America. It unfolded a vigorous and extensive program of aid, negotiated with railroads and steamship companies, and became in effect the director and guardian of the emigration as a whole. Its field of work naturally remained the United States, but it cooperated closely with a similar committee in Ontario led by Jacob Y. Shantz, as well as with the Mennonite Executive Aid Committee of Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonites, organized in April 1874 with which it had hoped to arrange a merger, but failed. It had a reliable Mennonite merchant in Hamburg, Germany, Heinrich Schuett, as its agent in that important port. Considerable sums of money were raised for the immigrants, both as contributions and loans, especially to help the many poor in some of the immigrant groups, although the original intent of the Board had been only to aid in the passage money. By 1875 the Board was deeply involved in aiding in actual colonization, working in Kansas through the Kansas Central Relief Committee, organized in April 1875, of which Bernhard Warkentin was secretary. After this committee was dissolved on 16 May 1876, the Board handled its colonization aid directly with the colonists.
The chief work of the Board of Guardians was accomplished by the end of 1875; but minor activity continued for another six or seven years. The loans of the Board were serviced for many years. Records are incomplete but documents are extant of as late as 1886, signed by David Goerz, secretary, and John F. Funk, treasurer, showing that loan repayments were still being collected. The total official receipts of the Board amounted to $40,484.16, of which $23,595.49 was used to provide passage for the destitute. The officers and members of the Board apparently remained unchanged throughout its history; at least Funk and Goerz still carried their office until 1886. No record is known of its formal dissolution. Some of the account books of the Board, as kept by its treasurer, John F. Funk, are in the Mennonite Church Archives at Goshen, Indiana. The records of David Goerz, the secretary, were destroyed in the burning of the office of the Western Publishing Company at Halstead, Kansas in 1876.
Schnell, Kempes. "John F. Funk, 1839-1930, and the Mennonite Migration of 1873-1875." Mennonite Quarterly Review 24 (1950): 199-229.
Smith, C. Henry. The Coming of the Russian Mennonites. Berne, IN, 1927.
|Author(s)||Harold S Bender|
Cite This Article
Bender, Harold S. "Mennonite Board of Guardians." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 11 Mar 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mennonite_Board_of_Guardians&oldid=92722.
Bender, Harold S. (1957). Mennonite Board of Guardians. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 11 March 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mennonite_Board_of_Guardians&oldid=92722.
Herald Press website.
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